The Old Garden Korea
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Rating:4.0 (1 votes)
Date Added:2010-04-09
Genre:Action & Adventure
Tags: Buddhism Drama

Summary: In 1979 the militant president of South Korea Park Chung-hee was assassinated by his former friend Kim Jae-kyu who stated he had "shot the heart of Yusin Constitution like a beast. I did that for democracy of this country. Nothing more nothing less." The Yusin Constitution was a policy created by Park to fully put power in his hands and human rights suffered greatly during this period. Therefore, after the death of the President, a fellow who had served the Japanese during World War II, many thought that South Korea would have a chance for a true democracy. Students and citizens took to the streets and yelled for democracy and freedom from military rile. Unfortunately, the next president Choi Kyu-ha was weak. Chun Doo-hwan the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency bullied himself into power and declared Martial Law with himself as the leader. He used the military to not only attack and kill protestors, "rebels," but innocent citizens as well, and on May 27, 1980, the Kwangju Democratization Movement was quashed.

A recent film, Kim Ji-hun's May 18 (2007) attempted to give voice to those slaughtered by the South Korean Army, and succeeds in doing so in a way heavy with melodrama. Im Sang-soo's The Old Garden (2006) is a bit different. Instead of focusing on those who died, it focuses on a man whose life was spent in jail before he was able to truly engage in the fight for revolution.

The Old Garden focuses on Oh Hyun-woo, a man who has spent nearly seventeen years of his life in prison for his support of the overthrow of the South Korean government and his sympathies for North Korea. After being released, he finds himself in a world that has changed greatly whereas he has remained the same except for his black hair turning gray. Embraced by his family, Oh soon learns that his sweetheart Han Yoon-hee died three years ago from cancer. After meeting his "comrades," who have all aged and whose revolutionary spirits have turned to bitterness, Oh goes to Yoon-hee's home and reads through her diaries to learn more about the woman whom he loved but knew so precious little about.

When I first heard of this film, I thought it was going to be similar to the Chinese director Xie Fei's 1990 film Black Snow which depicted a man who had a tough time assimilating to life outside of prison. Instead, The Old Garden is almost completely a flashback, but one not from the perspective of Oh, but from that of Yoon-hee's diaries, so there are traces of emotion and fabrications tinged by Yoon-hee's perspective which gives the film a novel outlook. Besides its interesting use of flashback, The Old Garden takes a different perspective of rebels that that of other films. In the aforementioned May 18, the deaths of the citizens are pitiable, but they die as martyrs standing for a cause. Oh's imprisonment occurs before he even has a chance to rebel and to fight, so in the words of Yoon-hee, he is a waste of life and potential. The Old Garden paints a depressing picture of rebellion and uprising, but it also gives a glimpse of the love and comfort that can be found in times of trouble.